Monday, February 17, 2020

Pick Your Poison: Reduction Cuts versus Moku Hanga

Proof of Eastern Amberwing Moku Hanga. Copyright 2020 by Ken Januski.

Multi-block woodcut of Blackpoll Warblers among Swamp Dogwood,  Copyright 2014 by Ken Januski.

This will be a very short post. I decided to write it after I took a look at my Etsy shop's stats for  last year and saw that the Blackpoll Warblers among Swamp Dogwood was by far the most viewed work  for 2019. But no sales.

It reminded  me of just how difficult it is to make any sense out of  web stats. It also reminded me of Robert Gillmor saying in 'Cutting Away' that he could never tell which prints would be popular. That is my experience. The ones that I think will be popular, largely often because I think that they are just plain good, often are not. Throwaways, in the sense that I did them relatively  quickly, are more popular than I would  have guessed. So as usual I just do what I like  and assume that my work will eventually find an  audience.

But the reduction part of the Blackpoll Warblers also  reminded me of  the blood, sweat and tears, and at one time volatile fumes as well, that accompany them. Though there was always something thrilling about doing them I eventually gave it up. I didn't find the mental wear and tear, coupled with piles and piles of print that had to be rejected as I made more changes, were worth  it. Surely there must be a better way.

For me that is moku hanga, as seen in a recent proof of an Eastern Amberwing.  There is still a fair amount to  do  and  I need to switch to at least one and perhaps two better papers for  the edition.

Why you might ask do I so prefer one over  the other? Well I'm sure that there are different answers for different people and I should also add that I don't really do traditional moku hanga. But I think the most telling  word is  this: organic. Everything about moku hanga seems organic: the materials used, the method of printing,  the many slow, at least for me, processes that make up moku  hanga.

In both reduction prints and in moku hanga, especially as I continue to  add blocks of new colors, it can seem like trying to juggle too many balls at the same time. With reduction cuts I was exhausted by the time I was done. Moku hanga can proceed at a much calmer pace, though of course this wasn't true  when it was done in its heyday in Japan I imagine since it was a business. But for me the lack of solvents, the ease of  printing, even though I recall that my first print proved no easier and probably harder than my first reduction print, the small space required to both carve and print all make it something that fits easily into my life. In many ways  it seems organic.

I say 'pick your poison'  in the title because the difficulty of both can make  them both occasionally seem like two unpleasant choices. But they both can create wonderful prints. The difference  I guess is that moku hang always seems to carry its own antidote  to the poison. Just sit back and take your time.

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